BY SAACHI KHANDPUR ’22
As a first-year student, I was told that Drag Ball was not to be missed. Drag Ball is a party and drag show that has been hosted by Familia, Mount Holyoke’s support network for queer and trans people of color (QTPOC), since 2017. It is an event meant to create a safe space for QTPOC on campus.
Leading up to Drag Ball, I was enjoying the buzz around the event, as people all around me were discussing what to wear and who to bring. I let my sophomore friends choose my attire for the event. The last minute hiccup of not having tickets until the day of the event was only part of the adventure. After all this chaos, I found myself in Chapin Auditorium on that Saturday night, dazzled by all the bright colors and lights. The performances were nothing like I had ever seen before. I saw people casting aside gender roles and stepping out of their comfort zones to dress in unusual but attractive ways. Nobody was worried about tting into the correct box, because there were no boxes at all. I saw everyone feeling the freedom to express themselves however they wanted with no fear of judgment or attack. It was a beautiful, almost magical space where everyone could be whoever they wanted.
But there was discussion regarding the attendees of Drag Ball among the student body. Some claimed that an event meant as a safe space for QTPOC was being dominated by white, straight and cisgender people. I heard many QTPOC students express that they could not attend the event because the tickets sold out before they got a chance to buy them. This discussion gave rise to the question of how to make an event such as Drag Ball more accessible to QTPOC as a safe space.
Chrissy Liang ’22 believes that QTPOC should be able to purchase tickets before everyone else. “I think a good way to make sure more QTPOC could get tickets is by doing a sort of presale — maybe for 2 days, tickets are only accessible to QTPOC, with the same price and sliding scale and pay it forward and whatnot, and then after that anyone else can get tickets,” she said. Other students echoed this statement.
“I think it’s sad that when an event is held for someone, but they cannot go because their tickets are sold out to someone not targeted for the event. They should’ve prioritized QTPOC more than white, non-queer people,” said Samira Khan ’22. Other students call for greater sensitivity and accountability of non-queer and white individuals at such events.
“I think that folks need to consider these rules and the space’s intentions more seriously,” said Emily Pollack ’20. “[Non-QTPOC students] often don’t recognize their microaggressions and the space they take up either, freeing themselves from real responsibility and sensitivity.”
An event like Drag Ball has a complicated history and purpose that must be taken into account so as to truly appreciate the signi cance it holds for many people. Taking a few steps, such as having a fixed amount of tickets exclusively for QTPOC individuals and acknowledging the purpose of creating such a safe space would ensure that events meant for certain communities actually reach their target audiences to a greater extent. I hope Drag Ball 2020 is seen as an inclusive, safe space for QTPOC by everyone.